How can Workflow Automation help SME Manufacturers with the labor crunch?

by | Feb 22, 2023 | Blog, Industry Article

Written in Collaboration between Ted Duffield (Lightship Works) and Paul Hogendoorn (MEE Cluster Digital Transformation Expert)

How can Workflow Automation help SME Manufacturers with the labor crunch?

We often get asked how Workflow Automation can help manufacturing businesses deal with labor shortages, especially like the one we currently are experiencing.

There are many ways it can, far more than we can list and describe in this column, but here are the four biggest ways workflow automation can help address your labour shortage challenge:

Replacing manual processes with automatic or digital processes frees your valuable “hands on” people of administrative tasks, allowing more of their time to be spent producing the products, and less time on manual bottlenecks. The benefit of digitization and automation goes far beyond just saving the time it takes a person to complete a manual process, it eliminates wasted time looking for the documents (which often get lost), collecting them, checking them, and then having someone else in administration redo parts of the process that could have been automated. Freeing up production people from mundane (and usually duplicated) administrative tasks frees up additional production capacity.

A proper workflow management system eliminates production mistakes and time wasted building the wrong thing, or building the right things the wrong way. Digital work instructions help workers build the right things, the right way, the first time. A simple mistake, such as using the wrong work instructions (or even the lack of any work instructions) leads to costly mistakes – not just lost money, but lost production time; the time spent building the product wrong is lost production time, and then the time spent to repair or redo it doubles that loss. Eliminating time wasted on building the wrong thing, or building the right thing wrong, is an obvious way to increase the effectiveness of your production team.

Digital and video technologies can greatly reduce operator training time, and facilitate cross training of production people. New hires can be onboarded more effectively, making them not just productive quicker, but making them more productive overall. Cross training workers gives the company even greater production flexibility, allowing production capability gaps to be filled in real-time – at the time and place the capability is needed, perhaps utilizing surplus capacity in other areas. Effectively using digital and video technology for these purposes allows more people to have proficiency in more areas, and updates and reminders are available to assist them whenever they move from one function or role to another. It also ensures that there is a full audit trail of the onboarding process, meaning there is less administrative burden checking in on new hires.

Workers (especially younger workers) are inclined to be attracted to companies that deploy newer technologies. When it comes to attracting workers, it is a competition that involves more than just dollars, security and lifestyle, it is also ‘fit’, engagement, and perception. Companies that effectively deploy digital and workflow management systems engage their people better; engaged people are not just more productive, they stay longer – and, they are your best recruiting channel to find other high potential (engaged and long term) people.

Although automated, digital workflow systems are definitely a tool that helps your administration, engineering, and management team get things done, they also greatly increase the capacity and capability of your hands-on production team. Important things to keep in mind to help remedy your current work force challenges.

Connect with Paul Hogendoorn, MEE Cluster Digital Transformation Expert, to kick-off your digital and automation journey.

To learn more about the solutions offered by Lightship Works, contact Ted Duffield.